“Language arrived fragmentary / split in syllables / spasmodic / like code in times of war,” writes Luljeta Lleshanaku in the title poem to her powerful new collection Negative Space. In these lines, personal biography disperses into the history of an entire generation that grew up under the oppressive dictator- ship of the poet’s native Albania. For Lleshanaku, the “unsaid, gestures” make up the negative space that “gives form to the woods / and to the mad woman— the silhouette of goddess Athena / wearing a pair of flip-flops / and an owl atop her shoulder.” It is the negative space “that sketched my onomatopoeic profile / of body and shadow in an accidental encounter.” Lleshanaku instills ordinary objects and places—gloves, used books, acupuncture needles, small-town train stations—with subtle humor and profound insight, much as a child might discover a world in a grain of sand.
Lleshanaku’s work is so full of life and vivid detail that it rings with hope and a revivifying ambition.
—George Szirtes, The Poetry Review
Lleshanaku writes poetry that estranges everyday objects and images of people, imbuing them with a sense of wonder most would ignore or simply not see.
Clarity can take many forms. One of them, at least in the poetry of Lleshanaku, results in aphoristic lines, evidence of hard-earned wisdom… Lleshanaku’s movement from the ordinary to the profound, that assured intuitive leap, is handled without effort, without pretension, recalling the work of poets such as the Nobel-winning Polish author Wislawa Szymborska.
Language that’s at once immediate and new: a black and white floor is ‘like a mouth of broken teeth, a baleen of darkness / sieving out new human destinies.’ Urgent and original.
—Nina MacLaughlin, Boston Globe
—World Literature Today
Celebrated Albanian writer Lleshanaku presents the domestic, its unseen labor and stabilizing force, as endangered by oppressive political regimes. But she also suggests that resistance begins at home, envisioning a revolution that empowers women most of all. Wry and self-aware.
Lleshanaku has a dizzying talent of capturing our notes of destruction. Wonderfully melancholic.
—Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions
Full of objects and souls, transformed and given wings in Chagall-like metaphor.
—Sasha Dugdale, Poetry Nation Review
Hers are certainly poems about history, politics, and power. But Lleshanaku is also original. When she turns her attention to love, the sense of human fate is unsparing. The tyrant’s insistence that there is no private realm has the unintended effect of making it necessary to write powerful durable poems.
—Sean O’Brien, The Guardian
Details coalesce to paint the Albania of Lleshanaku’s internal exile and, in the end, we feel blessed that she has invited us to ‘the takeoffs and landings / on the runway of her soul.’